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History and Timeline of Video Games

History and Timeline of Video Games

Video games have added a new dimension to the entertainment industry. When was the first video game developed? What is the secret behind their popularity? Read on to find out.
Manali Oak
Most of us enjoy playing video games. But have we thought about who must have been the first one to come up with this concept? Let us find out how video gaming came into being and how the games evolved over time.

A Brief History

During the early years after their development, video games used electronic devices with different display formats. The era of video gaming can be said to have begun in 1947, when Thomas Goldsmith Jr. filed a patent for his Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device. It consisted of an analog device that allowed a user to simulate the firing of a missile. The development of video games that used a variety of display formats, continued. The video games industry had to suffer from a collapse in 1983, from which it successfully recovered and went on to become one of the most profitable industries in the world. Even today, video games are seen as a great source of entertainment and have remained to be popular among the young and old, alike.


1947-48: The patent for Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device, the first video game ever, was filed in 1947 and issued by the end of 1948.

1951-52: Soon after, that is in 1951, Christopher Strachey designed a draughts program, which he had to recode on account of exceeding memory capacity. In 1952, A.S. Douglas, a British professor of computer science created a graphical version of tic-tac-toe, in which the player would compete with a computer using a rotary dial.

1958: William Higinbotham, an American physicist, came up with a game called 'Tennis for Two', which consisted of a gravity-controlled ball that would be played over a graphical net.

1961: Steve Russell, along with a group of students at MIT, created Spacewar, a computer game that required the players to control a spacecraft capable of firing missiles. Spacewar boasts of being the first most popular computer game.

1966: Ralph Baer, a German-born American inventor, came up with Corndog, a game that could be displayed on a television set. Within the next two years, he managed to create a prototype that was able to run many different games.

1969: Ken Thompson, a computer programmer working at AT&T developed Space Travel, a computer game that required the players to land a spacecraft on one of the celestial bodies simulated by the game. Initially, it was programmed to run on the MULTICS operating system. The system costs associated with porting the game onto other software platforms, were quite high. This inspired Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie to develop a new software for running this game. Around the same time, the process of developing the UNIX operating system began. Space Travel came to be known as the first UNIX application.

1970-1980: The Galaxy Game developed in 1971 was the first coin-operated video game. It was eventually expanded to handle up to eight consoles. Atari, founded in 1972, released their first arcade video game called PONG, which was a huge success. With the release of Space Invaders by Taito in 1978, arcade games became immensely popular. Color arcade games made phenomenal sales in 1979 and 1980.

Magnavox Odyssey system in the USA was the first to launch console-based video games in 1972. They managed to sell as many as 2 million units. The 1970s also witnessed the development of University mainframe games. The developers of these games were mostly University students who did not have the means to distribute the games they had created. Computer basketball game developed by Don Daglow in 1971, Star Trek, created by Mike Mayfield and Hunt the Wumpus, a hide-and-seek game developed by Gregory Yob were some of the very popular video games of the 1970s.

The late 1970s saw the emergence of the second generation of video games. Games were burned onto ROM chips and distributed in cartridge casings. The cartridges were required to be plugged into the consoles. Intellivision developed by Mattel in 1980, a powerful machine ColecoVision developed in 1982, and Activision of 1979 were three of the most popular machines that belonged to the second generation of video games.

1980-1990: The popularity of arcade games reached its peak in the 1980s. Defender, Battlezone and 3D Monster Maze proved to be some of the most popular games in those times. Mystery House was the first graphic adventure game released for home computers. Commodore 64 released in 1982 was also quite popular. However, Sierra King's Quest released in 1984 can be called a true modern adventure game. The release of Elite in 1984 marked the beginning of an era of 3D graphics video games. The introduction of the VGA standard in home computers gave a boost to the video gaming industry. Dedicated sound cards enriched the sound capabilities that some of the video games required. 1984 witnessed the beginning of a new generation of video games. In the years that followed, computer gaming dominated console games. Joysticks, paddles, and keypads replaced the traditional gamepads. The Legend of Zelda, the Dragon Quest series, and role-playing games called Final Fantasy, were some prominent third-generation video games.

1990-2000: With the increase in computing powers and declining costs of processors, video games with higher capabilities came into existence. The 1990s witnessed a rise in the use of 3D graphics and multimedia in video and computer games. Online gaming and Internet multiplayer games emerged in the 1990s. The popularity of arcade games declined, while mobile phone gaming and handheld PC games became popular.

2000-Till date: The evolution of video games continues till date. The years after 2000 saw the rise and fall of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh generations of video games. Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox are iconic among the present-generation video games.

The development of video games continues. The video gaming industry has revolutionized the concept of entertainment and brought in many new genres of computer and online games.